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Calling or Burden?

I loved reading Tammy’s insights last week, and she got me thinking about my own struggle to balance my life as I pursue the calling to midwifery. I doubt I do a great job, but sometimes I manage.

You see, my biggest struggle is feeling as if I have completed a task well enough.  I do this with every part of my life–I do it big or don’t do it.  My husband laughs at me that if I can’t work out for a full hour I just don’t exercise. But I’m not yet convinced that this is solely a bad thing. After all, the desire to do my best is really a great quality God has created within me.

So the struggle in my life for the past two years has been nursing school. I never had a desire to go to nursing school, God sent me there to prepare me to fulfill the purposes for which he has created me. Just like everything else in my life, I worked at nursing school with every ounce of energy possible.  I never fell too far behind in my readings, received high marks and learned much more than I anticipated. But to do this, I had to let go of other things in my life. My husband and children were priority, so studying revolved around being accessible to them.  With classwork, reading, reports and clinical work there just wasn’t time for anything beyond family.

And this is where my calling began to be a burden.  I began to second guess God’s calling in my life.  I was no longer volunteering for the PTA–did that mean I was a bad parent? We started to eat easy to prepare foods and even fast food– am I too lazy to cook a real dinner? I couldn’t be as active in my church–would I lose my love for Christ? Even my regular Bible reading and journal writing, the things that had been the backbone of my relationship with God and activities  I throughly enjoyed, became less frequent. How could I be a Christian writer and not spend hours in the Bible every day?

Friends, I would like to tell you I have overcome these struggles but they still plague me.  I can tell you I understand them a little better and can usually be at peace with who God made me and where God has placed me.  It is an ongoing struggle, and I find myself at the feet of Christ regularly asking if I am serving him well. I thought you might enjoy some of the wonderful things God has taught  me about these struggles.

1. God was preparing me for this challenge long before I knew I would face it.  For ten years I read the Bible through at least once each year, keeping journals of what I was learning and storing truth in my heart. Although I know I do not have the whole Bible memorized, I am able to recall principles, insights and important truths without having to read them on a page. This is not much different than most Christians throughout the history of the world – having access to my own copy of the Bible puts me in a rare category in history.

2. God is able to teach me about who he is in many ways, the Bible is just one of them. In fact, I have grown much deeper in my love for others through the learning I have done in nursing school. I have also had to face truths about myself, truths I rarely see with my nose stuck in a Bible. Focusing on nursing school gave me an opportunity to put hands and feet on the things I have learned.

3. God sent me to school at this time in my life.  It is important for me to respect where God has placed me and to do the best I am able to do in that situation.  If I did not have children and a husband I may be able to do things differently, may be able to spend two hours a day with God while achieving a 4.0 in school. God only expects me to do my best.

4. Letting go of my favorite way to spend time with God opened me up to finding other ways to be with him.  For example, I learned to add worship through music to my day. I also learned how to spend time with God and my family instead of always having to be alone with God.

5. These worries I have, about being a good enough mother or a good enough Christian, these worries are about looking good to other people and NOT about loving God.  If I am serving God and following the call he has placed on my life I need not be afraid of the judgment of others.  I know it will happen, others will judge me and it will hurt. But I can stand firm in the truth that I am accepted by God.

6. Going to school is not just about being in school.  God has me there for a purpose – to learn skills and strategies that I can pass on to others so we can save lives.  I need to take full advantage of the opportunities God has given me to learn because it may never be this easy for me to have this much access to this many materials ever again. Where I go, I may be the only health care worker some people meet.  I need to be sharp, I need to understand what I see and I need to have a well developed understanding of the body.  Studying for school IS serving God.  Preparing for what God has set before me IS spending time with God. Dismissing the opportunity God has given me as not “sacred” enough will only hurt me and the women I am preparing to serve.

7. My heart doesn’t let me go too long without spending serious alone time with God.  I can feel it building and can plan ahead for long stretches of time when necessary. I don’t have to think about it as all or nothing, instead I can include it in a full palate of ways to grow in Christ.

8. This is temporary.  School will not last forever, and eventually I will have “my” life back.  But by then, I may have found so many ways to connect with God that I won’t feel I’m cheating if I don’t have one specific type of encounter every day.

I hope God is able to use these things to help you better understand your own struggles as you pursue your calling.

Many blessings friends, I’m off to spend time with God while I study.

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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas and childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student in a nursing program learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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